When the Langley Memorial Hospital Heritage Committee officially opens its museum of hospital artifacts on July 22, there will be one feature that won’t fit into the small room in Michaud House.
It is a stone wall which is the only feature that remains standing on the site of the original hospital, which opened 70 years ago. Occupying its footprint is Langley Memorial Cottage, a 25-bed psychiatric rehabilitation facility.
Doris Riedweg, who is spearheading the display of archives in the mini museum, hopes that many people who have an association with or interest in the hospital’s varied history will be drawn to it. Among those she and the committee have invited to the opening, which will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Michaud House, is Eddie Sirney. It is Sirney’s father, Austrian-born Joseph Sirney, who built the wall in 1947.
The younger Sirney was still at school when his father pulled out huge stones from Lynn Creek in North Vancouver, and broke them up and shaped them with a sledge hammer.
“I still have that sledge hammer,” Sirney said on a recent visit to the Langley wall which forms the southerly edge of the Memorial Cottage courtyard.
“You couldn’t get the stones out of the creek now,” he said. “Fisheries won’t let you do that any more.”
Eddie Sirney left school in 1948, a little too late to help his father on the hospital wall. But a photo of the wall takes centre stage in an album featuring the stonework of the Sirney father and son. These include St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Chilliwack, St. Alselm’s Anglican Church at UBC, The Bayshore Hotel in Vancouver, the Vancouver Golf Club, and a host of Safeway stores in the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan. They also built the seawall in Ambleside in West Vancouver, and a feature wall at the race track at the PNE.
Joe retired in 1970 and died ten years later, handing over the sledgehammer and other tools of the trade to his son, who has also since retired.
Meeting the younger Sirney evoked memories for Riedweg of the fight to preserve not only the wall, but the land on which the original hospital had been built.
“Their original plan was to demolish the whole structure, including the stone wall, to make way for a parking lot. The Langley Memorial Hospital Heritage Committee put its foot down. It took seven years for them to agree to save the wall.”
With that in the past, the committee is keen on exhibiting the tangible memories of the hospital’s first 70 years. Everything from a doctor’s bag, nurses’ uniforms, an iron baby cradle, a stethoscope,
and bedpans — and albums filled with photographs of staff and events.
The public is invited to the opening at Michaud House, which itself is an historic building, having been built in 1888. It is at 5202 204 St., two blocks south of Langley City Hall.